Four leaders of a prostitution ring who pocketed millions of dollars as they shuttled women through at least seven states were arrested on Tuesday, authorities announced.
Federal law enforcement officials said the arrests were aimed at shutting down an operation that moved women, primarily Chinese nationals, through New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado and Missouri.
Angel Melendez, a Homeland Security official, said the defendants "used women as a commodity, selling them for sex and transporting the women from hotel to motel and state to state."
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said the defendants "promoted and managed a multi-state prostitution business through an extensive network of operators who worked in different locations to advertise and facilitate the prostitution."
He said the defendants "then allegedly raked in millions of dollars from their illegal and exploitive activities."
William F. Sweeney, head of New York's FBI office, called prostitution a "widespread dilemma" requiring cooperation between various law enforcement agencies.
He said the prostitution industry "can serve as a gateway for criminals with direct connections to human trafficking, organized crime and other illegal activities."
The prostitution ring operated at least between 2013 and 2017, recruiting customers through advertisements for escort services on classified websites such as Backpage.com, authorities said.
In an indictment, authorities said defendants were caught making arrangements for women in various cities.
If convicted, the defendants could each face a decade in prison.
Three of those charged were arrested in Queens while a fourth was arrested in Bronxville, New York. They were processed in federal court in White Plains.